Fiction

2018

The Five Secret Truths of Demonkind in Big Echo. The earth is cursed; humans are doomed to become monsters. A demon breaches virtue’s fortress in search of God.

‘Red as Water, White as Ruin’ in Mythic Delirium. An expedition journeys to a land devastated by an unknown apocalypse, navigating an impossible curse and an impossible survivor. Secondary-world horror/dark fantasy.

‘The Owls of Juttshatan’. On a cold world of slow-moving terns, a child grows in the shadow of her mother the war hero. She is a creature of peace, raised in quiet among maps and dreams and owls. But she can be more, if she chooses. A space opera novelette of brutal bildungsroman. Prequel to ‘Autodidact’

2017

‘You and I Shall be as Radiant’. Hu Feilin is a survivor of genocide, one of the last of her world. She knows of only one other, her sister Hu Liyan, a child selected by the tyrants for military training. To get Liyan back, Feilin will overcome anything: ancient ghosts, a genocidal army—or her own sister’s wish.

‘After-Swarm’. In the far future, soldiers are sent to fight a proxy war on a distant planet to solve the question: who owns Earth? But with the war resolved, soldiers no longer have a use. Emilia, once valued for her machine affinity, must return to the life she left behind and face a world ordered anew.

‘No Pearls as Blue as These’ in Beneath Ceaseless Skies. Bidaten is a bulwark, one of those bred as living weapons to fight horrors from beyond the high, vast walls that keep humanity safe from monsters. Duty is all she knows until her lord brings home a beautiful foreign bride.

‘Fade to Gold’ in Pseudopod (audio reprint). Narrated by Jen Zink.

‘The Universe as Vast as Our Longings’ in The Jewish Mexican Literary Review. In a far future, a country of tyrants conquers a world and takes in its children to raise as willing collaborators. When all you have is nothing, living itself is resistance. 6,200 words.

‘The Sun Shall Lie Across Us Like Gold’ in Clockwork Cairo (ed. Matthew Bright, Twopenny Press). Post-colonial steampunk in 19th century Thailand. Sequel to ‘The Governess and We’. 3,500 words.

‘Parable of the Cocoon’ in Big Echo. When the aliens came it was not to invade, but to uplift humanity for the purposes of an inscrutable war. Human subjects are selected for alien communion, given to perceive time in parallax… or perhaps something else entirely. 5,800 words.

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Guest post: A Few of the Little Red Reviewer’s Favorite Things

Today I’ve got Andrea over from The Little Red Reviewer! She’s a superb reviewer, smart, and all around a lovely person, and today she’s here to tell you about her new Kickstarter project. Without further ado…

andrea pic 3.jpg

These are a few of my favorite things

When The Little Red Reviewer first started, the books I reviewed came from my bookshelf or from the library.  I’d scan the “new” shelf at the library and see what caught my eye.  Guilty as charged: I was mostly reading popular books from big publishers, as at the time, those were the books that were easiest to find. So, it’s 2010, 2011, and my blog is chugging along nicely. The books I was reading were fun and all, but I felt like I was reading the same story over and over and over again.  There had to be more out there, the universe couldn’t possibly be this small.

And then around 2012 / 2013 two events occurred that changed my world:  I read my first Clockwork Phoenix anthology from Mike Allen, and I attended a small science fiction-fantasy convention in Ohio. Mike has now put out 5 volumes of the Clockwork Phoenix anthologies, and that first one that I read was a watershed moment for me.  I had struggled with anthologies for what felt like forever, and this was the first time I felt like an anthology worked for me.   I thought I didn’t like short stories, I thought I didn’t like anthologies. Little did I realize that what I was really saying was “I’ve not yet found an anthology that works for me”.

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Tops Things I Liked in 2018

Kamen Rider Amazons is the franchise’s first ever foray into something made for adults, and is not made explicitly to sell toys. It’s very dark, as in literally there’s a gray filter, and quite satisfying. Fantastic acting in general, barring a few weak links. I want more Kamen Rider like this.

Miss Sherlock is probably the only take on Sherlock Holmes I’ll ever care for. Just read my review.

ผลการค้นหารูปภาพสำหรับ golden kamuy anime

Golden Kamuy! What an amazing show: come for the cooking segments, stay for the surprisingly poignant tear-jerkers, sweet dogs, Ainu lessons, and homoeroticism that reaches its peak in a sauna wrestling session that looks and sounds indistinguishable from a gay orgy. It’d be nice if the cast had a bit more female presence, but the female characters are broadly quite good. Worth noting, the author raves quite a bit on the beauty of the naked male body.

The beautiful nudity of men. I want to keep drawing the naked bodies of men, be they pot-bellied or with thick chest hair.

ผลการค้นหารูปภาพสำหรับ double decker kirill

Double Decker Doug and Kirill is easily the best anime I’ve watched in ages. Canon lesbians who are neither tragic nor fetishized? Got it; see the blonde and the white-haired albino. A fictional America-alike city where there’s a very decent presence of characters of color (Latinx, black, and others)? Yup. Fanservice? Not a goddamn chance. It’s wholesome, hilarious, dramatic, unique, and just absolutely joyous: as much an earnest story of its own as a parody of cop buddy tropes. It’s not unproblematic and the way it treats Kirill’s sibling pretty weirdly. On the whole though, I recommend this one heartily.

Short stories

Ruin’s Cure by Vajra Chandrasekera is, technically, a time-travel story but obviously it’s more than that. Playful, striking, tragic and really weird, as to be expected of a Vajra story. I love it.

The Ghost Stories We Tell Around Photon Fires by Cassandra Khaw. So originally I picked another story from Cass I read this year but remembered this one. This is a reprint but new to me, and I described when I first read it as ‘Gorgeous, like fractal ice’. It’s a love story and a loss story, and demonstrates a perfection of form I rarely find anywhere else.

Books

Not all of these came out in 2018 but I read them this year, so.

The Devourers by Indrapramit Das
An Unkindness of Ghosts by River Solomon
Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi
Prime Meridian by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Unholy Land by Lavie Tidhar

My Stuff

I did my first podcast ever! Here’s an interview with me and my co-author, J. Moufawad-Paul, hosted on PoliTreks and a discussion on the book we wrote together, Methods Devour Themselves hosted on Revolutionary Left Radio.  The book came out in August this year and, as of this writing, very cheap on Amazon. It contains what I think is a pretty unusual interplay of fiction and critical engagement; from me there are two original stories, ‘Krungthep is an Onomatopoeia’ and ‘That Rough-Hewn Sun’, the latter being a (quite long!) prequel novelette to Winterglass.

Whose sequel, Mirrorstrike, was announced a few months ago. Slated for late next year, and which I’m pretty chuffed about. It’s longer, more, and I went into it with a great deal more ambition.

Short fiction-wise, this year I spent a lot of time working on… well, other things, one of them Mirrorstrike, yes. (You’d think writing a short novel shouldn’t take that long and for some writers I’m sure it would have been completed within a month. I’m not one of those writers. Also it took me multiple drafts. Ridiculous.)

The Five Secret Truths of Demonkind in Big Echo. The earth is cursed; humans are doomed to become monsters. A demon breaches virtue’s fortress in search of God.

‘Red as Water, White as Ruin’ in Mythic Delirium. An expedition journeys to a land devastated by an unknown apocalypse, navigating an impossible curse and an impossible survivor. Secondary-world horror/dark fantasy.

‘The Owls of Juttshatan’.On a cold world of slow-moving terns, a child grows in the shadow of her mother the war hero. She is a creature of peace, raised in quiet among maps and dreams and owls. But she can be more, if she chooses. A space opera novelette of brutal bildungsroman. Prequel to ‘Autodidact’.

MIRRORSTRIKE announced!

Winterglass now officially has a sequel! Official post on Apex:

With her mother’s blood fresh on her hands, Nuawa has learned that to overthrow the tyrant Winter Queen she must be as exact as a bullet … and as pitiless.

In the greatest city of winter, a revolt has broken out and General Lussadh has arrived to suppress it. She’s no stranger to treason, for this city is her home where she slaughtered her own family for the Winter Queen.

Accompanying the general to prove her loyalty, Nuawa confronts a rebel who once worked to end the queen’s reign and who now holds secrets that will cement the queen’s rule. But this is not Nuawa’s only predicament. A relentless killer has emerged and he means to hunt down anyone who holds in their heart a shard of the queen’s mirror. Like the general. Like Nuawa herself.

On these fields of tumult and shattered history, the queen’s purposes will at last be revealed, and both Lussadh and Nuawa tested to their limits.

One to wake. Two to bind. These are the laws that govern those of the glass.

Mirrorstrike is scheduled for late 2019. I’m, obviously, very excited about this. The sequel will be a good bit longer than book one, the stakes are higher, everything will be more. To celebrate the occasion, here is an illustration of the Winter Queen by  the fantastically talented Thai artist Moga.

winterqueen

‘Whatever Remains, However Improable, Must be the Truth’ (Miss Sherlock, 2018)

There must be something compelling about the Sherlock Holmes canon that has spawned what is, by now, its own sub-genre — a billion retellings, as it were, seemingly as prevalent as (if not more) than retellings of Grimm’s fairytales. I’ve never been particularly interested, and anyway procedurals and mysteries aren’t my kind of thing.

Miss Sherlock stands out not just because this time around both Sherlock Holmes and Watson are Japanese women, but by how they’re handled. Modern incarnations of Sherlock Holmes tend toward the antisocial, asshole genius and that’s all well and good, but what if the antisocial, asshole genius is a woman? Probably she was traumatized; probably she will be threatened with rape at least once during the cause of the show, if not some sort of suggestively filmed violence.

Not this one.

Tachibana Wato — Wato-san, you see, a bilingual pun so bad it’s good— is a volunteer medic who’s just returned from Syria; at the airport, she meets her mentor, whose stomach promptly explodes (fridged men casualty count: 1) and demonstrates that the show doesn’t shy away from gore. Enter Sherlock (who has a real name but which goes unmentioned in the show), a consulting detective the police call in when they encounter unsolvable cases. You know the drill. The hotel at which Wato stays goes up in fire by the end of episode one, forcing her to co-habit with the gorgeous, impeccably dressed detective, and if you’ve read that fanfiction before…

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Kamen Rider Amazons

I never thought I’d compare a Kamen Rider title to Tokyo Ghoul and Attack on Titan, but here we are. The show itself contains considerable amounts of gore, especially in the second season, some of which looks rather fake and some of which looks realistic enough to potentially nauesate. Spoiler warnings for season two, which isn’t available on English-language Amazon yet.

Kamen Rider Amazons is the franchise’s first experiment with making something that aims for an audience a little older than ten to twelve. The result is very interesting, unusual for this property, and while it’s not all great there’s a lot to recommend. The first thing to address is probably that, while this is a Darker and Grittier… side-reboot?, it abstains from the usual excess of sexual assault and so forth that accompanies the idea of dark-and-grit; when your main franchise is for selling children’s toys you don’t want that associated with onscreen graphic rape. The second thing is that, okay, there’s no nice way to put it: newer Kamen Rider titles look like shit. I’ve tried to watch post-Kabuto titles and there’s no perceptible improvement in CGI between Kamen Rider Kabuto (2006-2007) and Kamen Rider Build (2017-2018). Arguably the fight choreography is worse. Certainly the actors are far, far worse. I don’t know what happened here, whether it’s a budget issue or if they just churned these out quickly with the sole intention of selling merch and assuming that children don’t know any better. I’m pretty sure ten-year-olds these days recognize and complain about bad CGI, though.

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Some new skincare product recs

My skin is, currently, looking the best it ever has in a while. Obviously this is all YMMV and what works for me may turn your face into a complete crater, though probably not. Read on, but follow my routine with some caution, always check ingredients against your allergies.

These products can pretty much make up your entire routine, barring cleanser and sunscreen. Step by step in this order: toner, aloe vera gel (on its own or mixed with a drop or two of rosehip oil), cicapair cream, then turmeric cream. The Sidmool zinc cream is best for spot treatment.

Dr.Jart+ Cicapair Cream ($28). The one in the tube, not the one in the tub with SPF. Ingredients here. There’s a lot of imitators of this line from mid-range brands, I think pretty much all of them have got some kind of ‘cica___’ or ‘mild care’ lines that incorporate a lot of centella asiatica, Etude House Soon Jung and Innisfree Bija Cica lines coming to mind, but honestly in this case it’s worth shelling out for the Jart original. It’s a bit pricier, but you get 50 ml and you really do need very little product per application. It’s thick, it’s got shea butter and beeswax as ingredients, and if you’re clog-prone it could well clog up your pores. Having said that, there’s something superior about this cream’s formulation over its cheaper counterparts, and it does a fabulous job of soothing and calming skin, and most likely has occlusive properties. This is responsible for fixing weird breakouts I get overnight. Like I said, you don’t need much, I’m still using my tiny 5 ml sample tube after several weeks. The 50 ml tube is going to last at least a year. Good enough for the price.

It has some fragrance, very… mild and herbal and slightly earthy? It’s not a perfumed smell, and most likely it smells like this due to the ingredients, and the smell is completely different from Jart Ceramidin line. Milder but a bit less conventional. Goes away quick, though.

The Face Shop Jeju Aloe 99% Fresh Soothing Gel ($9.65). Hey look, it’s one of those super size products that clock in at a whopping 250 ml. The ingredients are pretty standard for aloe ver gels peddled by mid-range brands, and it does have alcohol denat. Having said that, the percentage of alcohol is little enough I never catch a whiff of it, and I haven’t had any issue. It’s a big product. You can use it as a hair mask, you can use it on the face, you can smear it all over the body. Nothing fancy, but what I like is that it dries down well and mixes very well with thicker moisturizers, creamy masks, or oils. (My preferred oil is rosehip; it can do magical things.) Per the ingredient list, this does contain actual fragrance, and it has this generic artificial aloe vera scent. Not my favorite thing about it, but the product’s good and it doesn’t bother me a lot.

Vicco Turmeric Cream ($5-10). Ingredients. This is cool. Real cool. Actually it’s literally cooling when applied, but not like when a product contains eucalyptus or menthol. Turmeric applied topically has a lot of anti-inflammatory, antioxidant properties, and might help with acne scarring. The Vicco cream particularly has a super-short ingredient list, contains a HUGE amount of turmeric (it’ll stain your pillowcase, yes, so watch out) and some sandalwood oil–there’s a version without the sandalwood available–and when you first apply it, it can sting a bit. But afterward it’ll completely mattify and soothe your face, and you can use it for daytime prep before applying makeup or at night. This cream comes in various sizes, at various prices, but it’s cheap enough you can just slather your face in it without fear. Obviously don’t pick it up if you’ve got an allergy to sandalwood oil.

One warning, the smell of the sandalwood oil is VERY strong and it’s going to linger on your face.

Sidmool Dr. Troub Skin Returning Zinc Cream ($21, 60 ml). Ingredients. I agree broadly with RatzillaCosme here (and her review is what persuaded me to give this cream a try) but what she doesn’t mention is that this cream is thick. The zinc content, at 10%, is pretty high and that makes it fantastic for fighting inflammation and breakouts (also works for bug bites and allergic rashes; diaper rash creams, like Sudacrem, also have a high zinc content) but that much zinc means this thing is almost impossible to spread until it’s been warmed up by your skin or has been mixed with a more emollient moisturizer, or an oil. However, once it has spread, it’s actually pretty comfortable on the skin and leaves a tacky (not greasy) finish. I can’t speak to whether it’d make a good pseudo-primer for foundation, but it does have this odd quality where it blurs your pores a bit even though there’s no silicone in the formula. There is a white cast if you haven’t rubbed the cream in enough.

For comparison, Laroche Posay Cicaplast Baume is similar in that it’s also a zinc-based cream designed to calm inflammation, but personally the Sidmool works much better for me. Cicaplast Baume is easier to spread, but once on the skin it’s much less cosmetically elegant and just sits on your face instead of absorbing, and leaves a weird, unpleasant texture.

Secret Key Witch Hazel Pore Clear Toner ($9). Ingredients. A lot of people swear by the Thayer’s Witch Hazel Toner, I swear by this. It’s cheaper (the bottle contains 243 ml), has a pretty nice ingredient list, and does a great job of being a cleansing, slightly astringent toner without being stripping. There’s some alcohol, but not so much you can smell it. It’s somewhat fragranced and that might bother some people, but I’d say it’s fairly mild.